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Special Lecture Series “Uniting for the future: Learning from each other’s experiences”

     — Tentative Programme —        

Special Lecture Series

“Uniting for the future:

Learning from each other’s experiences”

2nd September 2013

Plaza Athénée Hotel, Bangkok [Crystal B, 3rd Floor, Athenee Tower]


08.00 – 08.40 hrs.    Registration of invited and registered participants

08.45 – 09.15 hrs.    Opening remarks

09.15 – 10.50 hrs.    Keynote remarks by

                                    - H.E. Mr. Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

                                    - H.E. Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, Former President of Finland

                                    - Ms. Priscilla Hayner, Senior Advisor, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

10.50 – 11.00 hrs.    Summary of morning session

11.00 – 11.30 hrs.    Q & A

11.35 – 13.15 hrs.    Lunch (Venue: Crystal A)

13.15 – 13.30 hrs.    Recap morning session and introduction of experts

13.30 – 15.30 hrs.    Remarks by Experts

15.30 – 16.45 hrs     Panel Discussion & Summary of afternoon session

16.45 – 17.15 hrs.    Q & A

17.15 – 17.30 hrs.    Closing remarks



H.E. Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra

The Honorable Tony Blair and the Honorable Martti,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I wish to extend a warm welcome to all of you to the first of the Special Lecture Series on “Uniting for the Future: Learning from Each Other’s Experiences”. The Royal Thai government would like to express our sincere appreciation to the distinguished speakers who have given us their valuable time to share their experiences with us today. I would also like to thank the Devawongse Varopakarn Institute of Foreign Affairs and the Institute of Security and International Studies of Chulalongkorn University for hosting this important event.

The intention of this lecture series is to provide an open platform for all to participate in sharing experiences, ideas, and even personal stories, so we can learn from each other to create unity for peace and prosperity of our citizens.

I believe this first lecture and future forums will contribute to an understanding of the issues concerned. More importantly, I hope that it will also provide a basis towards practical approaches that can be implemented. Sharing views on ideologies is important but in the end we must be able to put words into practice for the solutions to be long lasting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We live in a time when democracy is at a crossroad. There are still some attempts to suppress the people’s freedom in many places all over the world. Many of you here believe in democracy and have worked hard to protect and defend the principles. Democracy guarantees the rights and liberties of the common individual. Democracy encourages individual talent to flourish, allowing equal economic opportunities to take root. And democracy respects diversity and allows any differences to be resolved in a peaceful manner.          

And we care deeply about the importance of unity for achieving long lasting peace and stability. This is because stability provides the basis for all nations and regions to ensure sustainable economic and social development.

The challenge for our generation is to build a future that provides our children with the kind of stability where there are less conflicts and ensure an environment where all are given equal opportunities to prosper. The key is for us to work towards a future built around a secure foundation of democracy.

And when I talk about democracy, I do not just mean a system where the majority is the government and the minority the opposition. I mean a culture where all citizens respect each another’s views and where the rule of law is enforced and respected by all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is for the next generation that we are here today. We need to learn from each other and I believe that all Thais can benefit from international experience.

In particular, on how others have resolved political conflict and promoted the development of democracy. Also, on how they have encouraged all sides to set aside differences and work together for a secure democratic future.  Of course, we want to hear about the successes but we also want to learn from the failures as well. Especially on what happens when unity cannot be achieved; and on the consequences of political conflict when there is no reconciliation. 

I hope that the lessons learnt from case studies of other countries will inspire all of us to reflect more on what is best for our country. This will allow us to take steps forward together in a democratic manner as we seek to unite for the future of the next generation.

Thank you.


H.E. Mr. Tony Blair

Thank you very much Dr., that was an interesting introduction. You covered a lot there. Just for the record, no, I am not being paid; I am here because you invited me. I am here also because I believe in the process of reconciliation.  Many areas of the world that I have worked in, reconciliation is a huge challenge – a difficult challenge. It’s one that’s worth engaging in, and because I know that colors are very politicized here in Thailand. I have got a blue tie on, so I will be safe. In my country by the way, I wouldn’t be.

So, first of all it’s very important to say I am really delighted to be back here in Thailand. I am particularly honoured to be sharing a platform with Priscilla Hayner and also someone whose long track record on issues to do with harmony and reconciliation. And with my good friend, former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, who is a Nobel Prize winner but also someone who I know from my time working with in office is someone with deep wisdom and understanding of this issue and has been a huge contribution to world peace over the years.

Something we should just get out of the way at the very beginning: In the end Thailand’s problems will be solved by Thais, not by outsiders. So we are here not to give lectures but to share experience and in the end how these problems are resolved are going to be issues that you are going to have to tackle over here. But it seems to be very sensible as we often did, by the way, particularly in the process of peace in Northern Ireland, to simply learn from the experiences of people from around the world. And I was heavily involved with the Northern Ireland peace process, in the Middle East peace process as well. As the Dr. indicated, I just came from the Middle East this morning and also to a degree in what happened during my time in office in the Balkans, both President Ahtisaari and myself are veterans of European council meetings which are a perpetual process of reconciliation, certainly from my experience.

What I am about to talk to you about today are the lessons I can take from my own experience and what, if you interested in listening then, I would like to summarize for you. I am going to put before you five things, five principles of what I learnt from engaging in peace process reconciliation over the years. And the first is this: reconciliation happened when the sense of shared opportunity is greater than the separate sense of grievance. In other words, your role is you are going to have a situation in which that sense of grievance is there. That’s why there is something that is the subject matter for the debate about reconciliation. But the context in which reconciliation works is a context in which that sense that there is a tremendous opportunity that people want to share. That shared opportunity becomes more important for people to achieve than to dwell on past grievances.

And here for Thailand – if I can offer this view as an outsider – this is a country of extraordinary potential. Its economy is growing in an amazing way in these last few decades. It’s a world leader in many aspects of industry and services, automobiles, hard disks, tourism. In term of population, around 67 million, it is one of the largest countries in the world today. A country that is rich in culture and history. And the challenges are very obvious: -- challenges to do with inequality, poverty, particularly rural poverty, challenges that we all have on education systems and healthcare, and of course the challenge of how the country reaches the next stage of development. It has come a long way in these past decades, but I know from the friends I have here that there is a powerful sense that the country has to aspire to a new stage of development. But there is no doubt that if you analyze the situation of Thailand objectively, it is a country that could and should become a regional and even a global power, so I would say that the shared sense of opportunity and potential is extraordinarily large. But of course what it needs is a united determination to overcome the strong feelings about the past in order to develop and exploit that shared sense of opportunity. For example, in Northern Ireland what we found was that one of the ways in which we brought about reconciliation was that people started to understand that the North of Ireland and the South of Ireland, they can actually do an immense amount together economically within the European Union. There is a whole series of potential opportunities that were being squandered as a result of the disagreement, and that created a sense in which people felt, look, there is an enormous amount of opportunity, so let’s find a way of reconciling our differences so that we can grasp that opportunity and move the island of Ireland forward. In Israel-Palestine right now, there should be that sense of shared opportunity, but the question is: will it happen. As a result of the efforts of John Kerry, who has done this with remarkable vigor and determination, now we’ve got the peace process back on track between the Israelis and Palestinians. One thing that will be very important is that the context of that peace negotiation has got to be one in which people feel: look there is a bigger prize here that we can grasp before preparing to reconcile our differences. That is the first thing -- there’s got to be a galvanizing sense of shared opportunity that overcomes the separate sense of grievance.

The second principle is – a situation in which you talk about reconciliation necessarily means there is a deep and profound disagreement, a difference which has to be reconciled, and the second principle that I learnt from my experience is that the past can be honestly examined, but it can never be judged in a way that is going to be to the satisfaction of everyone. And so you have to accept there are going to remain two sides with their own narrative about the past. That, in a way, you’re never going to get over. However, you can honestly examine the past in a way that allows you to move forward for the future. So again here I would say that the hardest thing is to be able to accept that that sense of grievance will never be fully healed, but nonetheless to accept that you are going to move forward in any event.

So to give you some very obvious examples from my experience, one of the toughest things in the Northern Ireland context and in the Middle East context is the release of prisoners, because there are two separate narratives about Northern Ireland. One is that the IRA were terrorists who were killing innocent people. And that is the view that the Unionist Community had in Northern Ireland and has today, it has not changed. And the other narrative, from the Republican side, is that these people were freedom fighters, and they were repressed by the British, and by the Unionist Community. And they’re not going to change that view of the past. So in other words, reconciliation is never going to be about people changing their mind about the past. It is really going to be about changing the mind about the future. And this is painful to do, by the way. So [Dr. Thitinan] was talking about when you were there in the UK, when I was Prime Minister, we brought about the Good Friday Agreement, which was the peace deal that allow us then to move forward. One of the items of that agreement was the release of IRA prisoners. And I have to say that when it actually happened – it was one thing to agree it, but when it happened, it very nearly destroyed the deal. Because if you were the victim of an act of terrorism, then you see these people who were responsible for it, especially if you lost a member of your family and you see these people walking free, celebrating, you are going to feel angry about it, and there is no way out of that. And one of the things that was most difficult for us was that actually the worst terrorist act, and unfortunately, the last terrorist act, came after the agreement, after the peace deal. And I remember going in and visiting, actually with President Clinton, the families of the victims of this terrorist attack in which many people lost their lives, and many people were scarred for life, and you felt the intensity, the grief and the anger. Now, some of those families actually said to me, and it was very moving that they did this: “You’ve got to carry on going for peace, because I don’t want this happening to someone else.” You can’t get that enormously altruistic and sensitive response, but it would be crazy not to accept there’s also deep anger there. For the re-launch of the Middle East peace negotiations just a few weeks ago there were prisoners released. Palestinian prisoners, but you know, the families of the Israeli victims – many of them were protesting very strongly that this was the breach of justice to release these people.

So what I am really saying here is that -- and you can see this, by the way, in some of the coverage and analysis for the Truth for Conciliation Commission of Thailand here, when you study that report, you can see some of the same types of issues – the point is this: You can honestly try to examine and bring out the sense of grievance of both sides, but you are going to have to accept that that sense of grievance will remain. The task of reconciliation is not to try and abolish it, but to try and overcome it, because trying to get rid of it and excise it from people’s minds is just not going to be possible.

The third thing, however, is that if it is impossible to banish the sense of past injustice, in order for there to be reconciliation, there has to be a future framework that people will accept as just. In other words, whatever argument is carried on about what happened in the past and who was to blame, the essence of reconciliation is at least to be able to establish a framework for future cooperation that people regard as just and objective, and where the root causes of the dispute or the conflict can be addressed, and this is enormously difficult but of fundamental importance. So we would never have achieved peace in Northern Ireland but for the Good Friday Agreement, and the essential thing about the Good Friday Agreement was that it provided a way in which two communities with irreconcilable past grievances were able, nonetheless, to see there was a future way forward that was fair. And in the end, the essence was a kind of compromise, really, where the Nationalists or Republicans accepted that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK for as long as the majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted it, which was a big compromise because previously they had always said “No, it is the people of Ireland as a whole that should determine this”. And the Unionist Community also had to make a big compromise because they had always said that the majority should rule in Northern Ireland, but because they were always going to be the majority, that was never going to provide a basis for peace. So we had to develop a framework in which power was shared, so you had the principle from the Republican side conceded that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK for as long as people wanted it to, and on the other side, but whilst that happened, there was going to be some sharing of power so that the Nationalist Community did not feel shut out or excluded.

In the Middle East right now, we have a framework – if we can get to the details of it – that gives us a chance to move forward on what is a framework of two states. So in a way you are accepting you’re never going to be able to reconcile the differences in the past about the creation of the state of Israel, the refugees that came from the Palestinian side, or what should be the right solution to this. In the end, people have decided that the only way this works i­s that alongside the state of Israel comes into being the state of Palestine – what we call the two-state solution. What I’m saying is that you can only create peace if people see, whatever the disputes about the past, the future has a framework that is fair, and seen to be fair and just, and one that also is capable of dealing with the root causes. Because usually with any conflict, there are issues around which the conflict revolves. They could be issues to do with the constitution, or issues to do with who took power and how. Those are the issues that are on the surface but usually there’s underneath some root causes, some things that have given rise to these deep differences. And, you know again, the Truth for Reconciliation Commission here discussed some of those causes and what they might be and how they might be dealt with. My point is very simple: that if you want the reconciliation process to work, you’ve got to have a framework going forward that allows those root causes to be dealt with in a way that is fair and which balances the situation in such a way that whatever people say about the past and the future, they think there’s a better chance of doing it in a way that is accepted.

The fourth principle is this: that when the purpose of what is being created as a future framework is that it’s anchored in democracy, then I would say that this principle is extremely important. The fourth principle is a genuine democracy is all that works. And a genuine democracy involves both the substance and the form of democracy together. Now what do I mean by that? Countries – I work probably now in about in twenty different countries in the world in one way or another – are often divided by factions, by class, by religion, by race, by color, so it’s not uncommon for countries to be one territory but within that territory for there to be deep divisions of one sort or another. That’s why these issues to do with reconciliation are so important the world over. So in a sense here in Thailand the divisions, you can analyze why they come about, but it’s not unusual that you will have such divisions. Each situation is unique but there are often common characteristics in those divisions. And right now as was being said earlier, all over the Middle East, for example, you’ve got experiments in democracy that’s taking place. And around the world today, there are examples of very old democracies, very new democracies, and countries that hope to be democracies.

I think there are a couple of things that are very, very clear about genuine democracy. The first is: democracy is not just a way of voting but a way of thinking. In other words, democracy is not just about how the majority takes power. It is crucially about how the majority then relates to the minority. If we look at the Middle East today, and the work I do not just in Israel and the Palestine but elsewhere, you know part of the trouble is when democracy is seen as a kind of winner takes all. Then you get the situation in which the majority comes to power and the minority feels as if they are kind of shut out and excluded. So democracy in my view works only as a concept that is pluralistic in nature. It’s not about domination by one party. It’s about a sense that you have a majority that comes to power in a democratic system but there’s still a shared space in which people cooperate and work together and actually share certain basic values. So that idea of democracy as a way of thinking and not just a way of voting is very important. And that’s what I call the substance, not just the form of democracy. And it is buttressed by a second element, which is the rule of law. The rule of law is something that I think is constantly underestimated in discussion about society, democracy, the economy, and a sense that there is a shared space of values.

And one of the things that I constantly talk about in different parts of the world, where there are countries that maybe have emerged from a period of conflict and got over the conflict and are searching for a way of anchoring their democracy securely, alongside this idea that democracy is a way of thinking and not just a way of voting is the idea that the rule of law is independently and impartially administered. And this is important for society, for citizens to believe that if they go in front of a court, the court will decide objectively. It’s important economically because if people are going to come invest in your country they need to know that there is a rule of law that will be applied in an objective way. It’s also important politically because in any system you’re going to get checks and balances, and one of the important checks and balances is an independent judiciary. And this by the way can be very difficult for political leaders. I remember when I was Prime Minister of the UK and I actually introduced for the first time in the UK a human rights legislation, which meant that fort the first time the Supreme Court in the UK, which we established, were able to overturn decisions of the executive or Parliament on the basis that they’ve offended essential human rights. And this is a very big innovation. We have a common law system – it was more common elsewhere, in America or where they have a written constitution or in Europe.  We have no written constitution in the UK and so there used to be a principle that if parliament said x then the courts couldn’t intervene. But I changed this balance of power. And what happens is, you’re Prime Minister and you pass a piece of legislation that you think is very important and the courts come in and strike it down. It’s a bit irritating when that happens from time to time. And I used to have a debate sometimes when people say to me “look, the judges are acting wrongly, they shouldn’t be doing this”. And I’d say no, we’ve given them that right and we’ve got to accept it. So I mean which they didn’t do it but we accept that they’ve done it and that they have the right to do it. But it only works on the basis, as I believe with our courts in the UK, that justice will be independently and impartially administered. So that doesn’t mean to say I agree with their decisions; I may disagree with their decisions but I believe that there is an objectivity and fairness about the actual system. So the fourth principle, I think, is this: that democracy works and works best as a source of reconciliation when it is clear that it is genuine democracy based on a pluralistic concept of society, a way of voting and thinking together, and based on genuine adherence to the rule of law.

The fifth principle is one that is very practical but is often forgotten in today’s world, that reconciliation is easier to achieve if the politics of a country as a whole is seen to be effective in delivering improvement to the people. In other words, government has a challenge of honesty and a challenge of transparency and these are very important issues. Around the world I often talk to people about obviously the need to push out corruption and systems that are transparent and accountable and so on. But very often the biggest challenge for government is not just the challenge of transparency but the challenge of efficacy; can it get things delivered for the people? One of the things I always say to any new Prime Minister that comes in is that the expectations of people are always very large. There was a famous American politician, Mario Cuomo, who once said that ‘you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose.’ So when you are campaigning, you are raising the expectations; but when you get into the government, it is tough. Then you’ve got to deliver, and that’s a lot harder. And one basic lesson is that you deliver most when you reach out and try and build bridges in a non-partisan way. And so this is where you may have a huge number of differences and disagreements about the past and you may require this process of reconciliation. But reconciliation will be easier to achieve if the government itself is operating effectively to deliver change for the people and so they feel their lives are getting better.

So one of the biggest problems we have in the Middle East right now is that the disparity between living standards in Israel and living standards in the Palestinian territory mean that unless people feel that the peace process is actually gonna bring benefit to them -- and Palestinians in particular feel that they are going a rise in their living standard and additional prosperity along with the justice of the state -- if they don’t feel that, they are far less inclined to put aside the differences and go for reconciliation.

So this issue to do with how you reach out and become more inclusive is very, very important. And by the way, I think one huge challenge for Western democracy today is how to get out of a paralysis of policymaking where parties engage in issues in such a partisan way that they can’t build any common bridges with each other and therefore the country can’t move forward. And if you think of what’s happened in the US, there is a paralysis in Congress that over time has been hugely debilitating and has kept back the economic recovery of the country.

So these issues to do with delivery for the people change and reform are of huge importance, and sometime they can help when you reach out beyond the partisan divide and you start cooperating in areas of policy, then it’s easier for the people to see that it is sensible to cooperate also on the basic process of the reconciliation.

So those are my five lessons or principles if you like. From the work of reconciliation that I have been engaged in when I was Prime Minister and since leaving office, and this is never easy by the way, and sometimes you go through periods when it just seems that the differences are irreconcilable and the process of reconciliation is hopeless. We reached a situation just the few months back. I was attending a meeting in the Middle East. This was before we relaunched the process. I was attending a meeting in the Middle East and people would just literary say that the situation was hopeless and we never going to be able to resolve it. And yet actually a few months later we are now having a negotiation back on track again.

We had a situation just as I left office in 2007 where in Northern Ireland, the Reverend Ian Paisley, who some of you may remember from the Northern Ireland dispute, and Martin McGuinness from the Republican movement sat down in office together in a power-sharing arrangement. If anyone had said – if I’d said in 1997 when I came into power that Martin McGuinness would sit in the same room as Ian Paisley, they would have considered me mad. And if I’d said that they would be sharing power in government together, I would have been certified. Some of you may have thought that I should have been anyway, but the fact is no one could have foreseen that development. All the smart money would have been on that being hopeless, that it is not going to happen, but it did.

So I guess my concluding thought is really this: the important thing about reconciliation is also never to give up on it. It is important, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. It is vital for the future of the country, otherwise the debate wouldn’t be happening.  And however difficult it seems and however big the gaps are, it’s worth constantly trying to reconcile, and this is where the people themselves have also got to play a role, because political leaders need to be in power. Of course leaders should lead, but it helps when they look over their shoulder to have someone behind them. And one of the things that’s in every experience I have from the Balkans through Northern Ireland and the Middle East and parts of Africa where I work in today, is in order to have reconciliation, the leader has to lead but the people have to be behind them, and you never get a reconciliation without that strong popular support pushing and enabling and empowering the leader to lead. So don’t give up, however difficult it is. Carry on, because there is a huge shared opportunity for Thailand and it would be shame to waste it and I am quite sure in the end, by the way, you won’t. So however difficult or bleak it looks right now, I am certainly here today to say reconciliation can work and where it works, it brings enormous benefit to the people.

Thank you.


Martti Ahtisaari

Distinguished Prime Minister, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

My great fortune is that I come from a country that has lived in peace and harmony for almost seventy years. No war has disturbed our life; no civil strife has interfered with our daily business. Calm, perhaps even a little dull, but safe and sound society. However, this has not always been the case.

At the end of the First World War Finland, a Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire, broke ties with Russia. Soon thereafter, in 1918, the Russian revolution spread over the borders of the country. In many European countries there were incidents of serious civil strife, even civil wars. Our country was one of those where the controversies between the left and the right - the Whites and the Reds, as they were identified then - led to a brief but bloody civil war, which took the lives of almost 37 000 fellow Finnish citizens. Even though the civil war took place in the context of the worldwide power struggle, that wasn´t the only reason for the conflict. It also had very much to do with ordinary people´s social and economic grievances in the society.

After the civil war what was decisively important for the recovery of the country, was a determination for reconciliation between the Whites and the Reds. Only some ten years after the end of the Civil War the Reds, the losing party in the war, was in government, properly elected and widely accepted. They too had modified their stand. They had abandoned their revolutionary ideas and accepted, without reservation, the principals of rule of law and a democratic form of government. All this constituted the basis for a resumption of normalcy in the life of the nation.

Only some twenty years after the Civil War Finland had attained a standard of living comparable with most European countries. That was no small achievement for originally a poor agrarian country. The harmonious political life was a good foundation for basic economic reforms. Even the Second World War, where we were entangled, did not break the new fabric of the society. And after that war steady progress has continued in economic and political terms.

But let´s be frank: the deep wounds that the civil war left in to the minds and hearts of the people, took a lot of time to be healed from. Even during the last 10 years, we still have had a lot discussion and analysis about the war and its reasons and consequences. It is always a different thing to make institutional arrangements and agree on those, than truly reconcile and come into terms with one´s past. But it is possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me now turn in to some of the key thoughts and lessons learned from my own career when talking about societal change and building peace in fragile societies. I will focus on three different reconciliation processes, namely Namibia, Aceh and Kosovo, which I have been involved in. Even though each one of these reconciliation processes has taken place in different political circumstances and different continents, the main challenges of reconciliation have been the same.

When I started my work as a Special Representative of the Secretary General for Namibia in 1978, some of the observers said that the political challenges in the country were insurmountable. I never bought that argument. For sure, a huge number of things required deep political solutions. Issues such as land ownership, the recognition of liberation movements and territorial control had been debated for years. And now, UN resolution 435, adopted in September 1978, managed to frame the process leading towards ceasefire and nation-wide elections. However, the process was not easy, nor quick. The ceasefire took place 10 years after the resolution and the elections 11 years later, in 1989. 

When talking and preparing for any meaningful reconciliation process, it is always easier to put words and plans on paper than start implementing the actual plans. This was also the case with Namibia. When one´s history is full of mistrust and betrayal, the leaders and citizens of any given country have to face the difficulties of trust building by themselves. This cannot be outsourced. You can always learn from others, listen to the speeches of the experienced ones, but at the end of the day, the responsibility for the future always lies with the people, both leaders and citizens.  

In the case of Namibia´s independence process, it was an assembly of 72 politically selected members that had to face these realities and start working together in a responsible manner. This group had to produce a constitution, which established a genuine multi-party system and a bill of rights. The task wasn´t easy, but the members of the Assembly understood that if they lost their moment, it would be the citizens of Namibia that would pay the price. They did a good work. The constitution defines not only the framework for the political system and legislation, but clear definitions for fundamental human rights and freedoms of the citizens. In this collaborative spirit, the elections were held - with a support of Namibia´s neighboring countries and the international community - and the result was good. Now Namibia is a free country where different peoples and groups have managed to come to their sort of respectful accord with each other. They have a democratic system in place to tackle with every day differences and political rivalries.  

One of the things that I´m particularly happy about is that Namibia´s record in good governance is commendable. According to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance Namibia is currently number 6 in the group of 52 African states. The index - which is a governance data index initiated by Mo Ibrahim Foundation – analyses the performance of African countries and governments annually in four different categories: safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity and human development. In these categories Namibia is doing relatively well amongst its peer countries.

For sure, good governance is not a challenge only for African or Asian countries. In fact, I would be eager to use the same methodology to assess also the performance of European countries. That would make a very interesting comparison.            

The process leading to Namibian independence was long and required strong commitment and determination from the Namibians and the international community. Today, looking back to those years, it feels almost unbelievable that we managed to get all the key actors - the Western five (US, UK, France, Germany and Canada), the Soviet Union, the Organisation of African Unity, the South-African government and all the political parties in Namibia, including SWAPO - to work towards a shared goal. One of the greatest lessons learned from Namibia clearly indicates that a durable solution can only be found if one is prepared to engage in discussions with his or her political opponents.

It should also be noted that other, unexpected benefits may follow a successful reconciliation process. I believe that Namibia´s experience also encouraged South Africa to expedite their reconciliation process in a successful manner.

Dear friends, the peace process in Aceh, Indonesia – not so far away from here – was a bit different from Namibia, but with a lot of similarities. I personally got involved with the Aceh peace process in late 2004. The process started rapidly. Already in January 2005, the newly elected Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, GAM, met in Helsinki to talk about the conflict that had lasted for almost 30 years. From the beginning of the talks I had a feeling that I was surrounded by people who realized that they had in their hands the power to stop further suffering of the Acehnese people. I was surrounded by people who had realized what political responsibility and leadership means. During the negotiations trust and confidence were gained gradually. Our starting point of the negotiations was “A peaceful solution with dignity for all.” Not only for the conflicting parties, but for all the people in the province of Aceh. We also had an extremely crucial principle in the Aceh negotiations, which I introduced: “nothing is agreed before everything is agreed”. This meant that neither party could claim any victories during the process and use media to communicate their constituencies how successful they had been in the negotiations in all issues that were important for them. All the agreements were included in the Memorandum of Understanding and published only in the end. This gave peace for the negotiators to work. I admired the discipline of both parties in this regard.

One of the greatest lessons learned one can ever realize when building societies and trust anywhere in the world became evident in Aceh. Words are never enough. Trust can only be created if one party sees the others keeping its promises and to do as was agreed.

In Aceh peace process I made it clear to both parties that if genuine peace is the goal, both sides have to be prepared to make concessions and compromises.  Even though some of the concessions might have felt painful during the talks, it is evident that both sides eventually gained much more than they had to give up. The process also showed how important it is that a country’s political leadership is committed to finding a solution. We all bear a responsibility in fragile societies, but it is clear that the leaders´ responsibility is even bigger. Social and economic reforms - hand in hand with justice and equity – can only progress if all political parties are committed to them in the long term.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me now briefly look at the case in Kosovo. Today, there is much that Kosovo can be proud of. With the passing of legislation and adoption of a Constitution, addressing concerns of all communities as well as establishing state institutions, remarkable progress has been made. I especially welcome the setting up of the Constitutional Court, the ultimate guardian of Kosovo’s constitutionality. It represents the launch of the most important body in the institutional architecture of this country.

As was the case with Namibia and Aceh, the road leading to the current political stability hasn´t been easy in Kosovo. Some 13 000 lost their lives in Kosovo conflict before the start of the Kosovo status process in 2005. So a lot has been achieved in terms of peace, in terms of absence of violence.

But now Kosovo is also facing a serious reconciliation phase, how to root the culture of peace in the society, between the citizens of Kosovo and between Kosovo and Serbia. Peace in Kosovo has to mean a new tone in rhetoric, in chambers of power – but also in classrooms.  It means that one has to acknowledge that the past was destructive, but now we must do better. Kosovo tells us that reconciliation means that it is not about forgetting our past, but recognizing that the future can and must be different. Kosovo also tells us that any reconciliation work needs a lot of support from friends, small and big ones.  

Ladies and gentlemen, all three experiences that I have been sharing with you today, underscore the fact that in reconciliation, and nation building, trust is everything. But it requires time, patience and work. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand also rightly points out in its recommendations, peace is not only an outcome, it is a process.

It is important to realize that trust can also be fostered by giving people the tools to be architects of their own future. National leaders in government have to create political space for local leaders, both from powerful and marginalized groups, to shape the national agenda and the evolution of institutions.

If any nation is about to build trust, it has to choose an open and wide road to walk together with anyone interested. Negotiation chambers can do only a part of the job. The true reconciliation can only be found in the behavior of all people, whether they are ministers, officials, activists, teachers or neighbors alike.

National reconciliation also has to be supported by political actions and egalitarian principles. Societies that have been conflict-prone for decades, or even hundreds of years, need to pay especially careful attention to the policies they promote and implement in their respective societies. During the difficult times it is pivotal to assure that proper education, decent living and health care are available to all the citizens, in an egalitarian manner. This is a precondition for any society to live in peace in the 20th century.

We also need to find ways how to deal with the past injustices and grievances. There has to be space and time to address them. We have to understand the meaning of social memory – the ways we tell different stories from our past. At the same time we must tolerate and respect these different stories. This is where we need reconciliation, open dialogue between conflicting memories.

But in order to move on, we also have to find ways to think and teach differently. After the collapse of Soviet Union much has been invested on teacher education and curriculum-development in Post-Soviet societies, with the aim of including the ethnic minority views in history text books. Official truth about the past must acknowledge the complexities, but it also has to be able t